Monthly Archives: June 2012

Leeches in Sea of Galilee; Palestinian Village; Jericho

Sea of Galilee invaded by leeches. For the second time in 7 years the lake has an explosion of leeches. The article in Haaretz says,

Standing in the water for as little as two minutes will cause your legs to be covered in hundreds of leeches. These particular types are not blood-suckers, making them relatively easy to remove once one is out of the water

Causes for the large number of leeches include “human activity, including pollution, poisoning and overpumping.”

Read the full article here.

The Sea of Galilee was central to much of the ministry of Jesus.

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. (Matthew 4:18 ESV)

Palestinian Village uses Roman irrigation system to continue terraced farming near Bethlehem. Read the story, with beautiful photo, in The New York Times here.

Tell es-Sultan/Jericho. Sepienza University in Rome, in cooperation with the Palestinian General Directorate of Antiquities, has published a Palestine Archaeological Databank and Information System. Check here for maps and other information. Our readers will likely be interested in the excavation reports on Tell es-Sultan/Jericho here. Click on the Results 2012 photo for the most recent work by the Italian-Palestinian Expedition at Jericho. Every visitor to the site will welcome is the new paths, identifying signs, and general clean-up of the site.

I was especially pleased to see the Digital Visit plan of the site. Click on it was a colorful, readable plan of the site like the central portion of the one shown below. Prof. Lorenzo Nigro is the director of the excavation.

Tourist Path and Main Monuments at Tell es-Sultan/Jericho. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tourist Path and Main Monuments at Tell es-Sultan/Jericho. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jericho is important in Old Testament history (Joshua 6).

HT: Bible Places Blog; Jack Sasson; Barry Britnell; “La Sapienza” Expedition to Palestine.

Roman artifacts in the Samsun Archaeology Museum

Our main interest in visiting the Black Sea coastal cities of Samsun and Sinop is because they are part of the ancient Roman province of Pontus. Somewhere in Pontus, probably Amisos (now Samsun), was the beginning point for the messenger who carried Peter’s first epistle to the elect of the diaspora residing in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1 Peter 1:1).

The Archaeology Museum in Samsun has only a few items from the first century Roman period on display, but they are significant.

A marble head of Augustus is displayed prominently. Augustus was the Roman Emperor from 30 B.C. to A.D. 14. He is mentioned only once in the New Testament, but his influence in the eastern part of the Empire is evident in many way. The apostles traveled along roads built in the days of Augustus.

Luke records that the decree for a census to be taken of all the inhabited earth went out from Augustus.

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. (Luke 2:1 NAU)

This accounts for Mary and Joseph traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem at the time of the birth of Jesus.

Roman Emperor Augustus. Displayed in Samsun Archaeology Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Augustus. Displayed in Samsun Archaeology Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I was surprised at the many references to Augustus on this blog. Just put the word Augustus in the search box to locate posts that mention him.

There is a first century image is that of a young athlete in the museum. He is full height, with arms missing.

Young Roman athlete in Samsun Archaeology Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Young Roman athlete in Samsun Archaeology Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Apostle Paul used several illustrations from athletics. He told the young preacher Timothy that discipline and self control were necessary in his work as a preacher.

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:25-27 ESV)

The Samsun Archaeological Museum

Hidden in Plain Sight. While driving around Samsun we saw a brown sign pointing to the Archaeology Museum, but we were not able to locate the building. We knew it was there because Mark Wilson mentions it in Biblical Turkey (340), as do some other guide books. I mentioned earlier that very few people in this region speak English. There was one girl at the hotel who could speak English. We met one young man in a local store who had been living in New York who spoke English, and a lady from the Netherlands. We always get by, and the locals are almost always helpful.

When we inquired about the Archaeology Museum we were always directed to the Gazi Museum. That is a museum devoted to the early history of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey. We enjoyed visiting that museum, but it still was not what we were looking for. After much effort, we finally found a policeman who pointed us in the right direction. Then, while we were standing on the street corner with an inquiring look, a Moslem lady asked if she could help us. She was from the Netherlands. She went in a store to inquire. They pointed us back to the Gazi Museum. When we indicated that was not the museum, we were finally pointed directly across the main street, beyond a little park, to the Archaeology Museum. By this time one of the local men indicated we should follow him. Success, at last.

The museum is small, but contains artifacts ranging from the Chalcolithic Period (as early as 4300 B.C.) to the Roman Period.

Excavation at Ikiztepe. Ikiztepe is a site located about 4 miles northwest of Bafra (see our discussion of the Halys River in yesterday’s post). In recent excavations, evidence of “cultures of the Chalcolithic Age, the Bronze Age and the Transition Age (Before Hittites) have been determined” (Museum brochure).

An article in Hurriyet Daily News says that discoveries at Ikiztepe range from the Chalcolithic Age to the Hellenistic period.

The most interesting findings unearthed during the excavations are skulls, which underwent surgical operation. In the graveyard on the highest hill in the ancient site, dating back to 2300-2100 BC, eight out of the 690 skeletons had skulls with traces of surgical operation. These skulls have archaeological importance since they are the only ones unearthed in Anatolia. They also show that people who lived there did not have the characteristics of Mediterranean people but of southern Russians and Bulgarians.

Read the full article here.

Ancient brain surgery that cut a hole in the skull to relieve pressure is referred to as trepanation. A few of the skulls found at Ikiztepe are displayed in the museum. They are said to belong to Bronze Age III. I think that would be in the neighborhood of 1600 B.C. Here are two of the photos I made that show the hole drilled in the skull.

Example of Trepanation, Bronze Age III, Ikiztepe. Samsun Archaeological Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Example of Trepanation, Bronze Age III, Ikiztepe. Samsun Archaeological Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The surgery in the case below required a much larger hole.

Example of Trepanation, Bronze Age III, Ikiztepe. Samsun Archaeological Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Example of Trepanation, Bronze Age III, Ikiztepe. Samsun Archaeological Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There is no indication whether the surgery was successful, or what happened to the surgeon if it failed.

Joe Zias, in an article in Mikhmanim (Spring 1999), says there have been 29 skulls showing trepanation (trephination) discovered in Israel. He says the survival rate based on “inflammatory or bone remodeling” indicate a 77 percent survival rate in these cases. You may read his entire article about this and other medical issues in ancient Israel here.

In a future post I plan to show you a few of the Roman period ruins, the time of Peter’s epistles (1 Peter 1:1).

The Halys (Kizilirmak) River

The Kizilirmak (Kizil Irmak) River was known as the Halys River in ancient times. The river flows past the Turkish town of Bafra into the Black Sea. Notice the Halys between Sinope and Amisos on the map below. It is about 35 to 40 miles west of Amisos. The river to the east of Amisos is the Iris.

Map of Pontus showing Sinop and Amisos.

Map of Pontus showing Sinope and Amisos. The Kizilirmak (Halys) River is located between the two towns, but closer to Amisos.

Pfeiffer and Vos describe the importance of the Halys.

The most important river of the peninsula [Asia Minor] is the Kizil Irmak (ancient Halys), 600 miles long, which originates in eastern Asia Minor and flows in a great bend to the southwest and finally into the Black Sea through what was Pontus. Unfortunately its gorge is often too narrow to permit it to be an important means of communication into the interior. (The Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands, 316).

The photos below show the river flowing from the mountains on the south side of Pontus. These photos were made about 10 miles from the Black Sea, which is to the north. This is one of the widest areas of what was once the Roman province of Pontus.

Kizilirmak (Halys) River flowing to the Black Sea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

C. J. Hemer wrote of the importance of the rivers of Pontus. He also calls attention to the fact that the “narrow coastal margin was separated from the interior by mountains.”

The chief rivers besides the Halys were the Iris, Lycus, and Thermodon. The fertile land of their valleys and of the narrow coastal margin was separated from the interior by mountains, once heavily forested, which have always impeded communication with the plateau. Important products included fruit, corn, olives, and timber. (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (3:903).

Kizilirmak (Halys) River flowing to the Black Sea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Kizilirmak (Halys) River flowing to the Black Sea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The ancient Hittite Empire comes to mind when I think of the Halys River, as Pfeiffer and Vos have pointed out. We say that the Hittites lived within the bend of the Halys River. A portion of Cappadocia (1 Peter 1:1) is also within that same bend.

Seeing the Halys, which I had seen before near the Hittite capital, was a pleasant surprise.

A funny thing happened on the way to Samsun

Pardon the delay, but I have had a couple of grandson days since the last post. Not much else gets done.

In the last post I spoke of the mountainous road east of Sinop, and of the rare opportunity to pull off the two lane highway. The first time we found a place to safely pull off the road we stopped to make some photos. I walked a few yards away from the car to find a clearing for a photo.

After a minute or two we heard a roaring sound. My first thought was that there might be a military air base in the vicinity. The sound came from jets taking off, I thought. To my surprise I saw a group of motorcyclists coming around the bend. One of the riders in the front of the group had a helmet with horns. Further back was another rider with the same kind of helmet. I didn’t know if these guys were a rogue motorcycle club or a bunch of “Wild Hogs.”

When the entire group of about 15 cyclists pulled in around our car which was up the hill a short distance from where I was, I thought of the old joke about the tourist group that got lost in cannibal territory. The cannibal leader told the group, “You take the bus and leave the driver for us.” I was able to snap a photo of Leon making a fast get away from the group. But the car is totally hidden from view by the cyclists.

Group of cyclists on the mountanious road east of Sinop. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cyclists on the mountainous road east of Sinop. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

After conferring, Leon and I decided we should get to the car while there was opportunity. As we approached the cycles I noticed that most of the tags, and some of the leather jackets, bore the designation Estonia. When we spoke in English, several of the riders tried to communicate. The best English speaker in the group was from Russia. He told us that they were riding around the Black Sea.

An Estonian proudly showed me his shirt with a screen print showing the Black Sea and the names of the major places they were visiting. I think his smile tells how our encounter turned out. The Black Sea is slightly visible far below us.

Cyclist from Estonia making a circuit of the Black Sea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cyclist from Estonia making a circuit of the Black Sea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Uneasiness past, we said good-bye and went on our way to Samsun. It was a nice experience; the sort that we often encounter in foreign travel.

The delivery of Peter’s Epistles

When I began to write about Pontus, the Black Sea Coast, and the cities of Samsun and Sinop, it was primarily to discuss the address of the Apostle Peter’s epistles.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

I assume, based on 2 Peter 3:1, that both of Peter’s epistles were written to the same Christians.

This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, (2 Peter 3:1 ESV)

The map below shows the larger portion of Asia Minor. Note the order of the provinces in Peter’s address: Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.

Map of Asia Minor during the time of the Roman Empire. BibleAtlas.org.

Map of Asia Minor during the time of the Roman Empire. BibleAtlas.org.

We know it was common for the New Testament letters to be carried from the place of writing to the those addressed by personal, trusted messengers.

  • Tychicus was the bearer of Ephesians and Colossians (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7).
  • Letters were sometimes sent from one church to another (Colossians 4:16).
  • It is often pointed out that the order of the letters to seven churches of Asia follow a typical circuit along known travel routes: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea (Revelation 1:11; 2-3).

We may raise questions concerning Peter’s epistles. Let us assume for the moment that Peter wrote from Rome. This is my understanding of 1 Peter 5:13. If the bearer of 1 Peter began his delivery route in Pontus, how did he get there? Was it overland or by sea?

Understanding the terrain. Once we understand something about the terrain the answer becomes obvious. Coming from the west it would be much easier to go to Pontus by sea than by land. A first stop might be at the city of Amastis (modern Amasra, west of Sinop). The next stop would be Sinop. Neither of these cities would provide a good place to begin an inland journey going through the named provinces. The ideal beginning point would be Amisos (modern Samsun). Mark Wilson writes about Amastris:

A coasting vessel carrying Peter’s messenger would certainly have stopped here. Amastris has been suggested as an entry point for Peter’s letter to the cities of inner Pontus and northern Galatia, but the road to the interior was difficult. It is more probable that the messenger continued by sea to Sinope and Amisus. (Biblical Turkey, 337).

When you look at a map showing topographical detail you see that both Bithynia and Pontus are not very wide (north to south), and that most of that width is mountainous. Some areas, in fact, have no coastal roads. Such is still true of the region east of Sinope.

Map shows the narrow province of Pontus. Made with Bible Mapper.

Map shows the narrow province of Pontus. Made with Bible Mapper.

The distance between Samsun and Sinop is barely 100 miles. Leaving Samsun we had good road for about the first 50 miles. After that the road was mountainous and much construction work was underway. Often we were driving high above the Black Sea even when we could see it. We had expected to make the drive in two hours in our good rental car. It took us three hours. Notice this hair pin section of the two lane road.

Hair pin curves in the mountains east of Sinop. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hair pin curves in the mountains east of Sinop. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Both Sinop and Samsun were significant in the life of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey. The following sentence shows that both towns were more easily reached by sea even as recently as a century ago.

Atatürk came to Sinop on the ship Bandirma on 18 May 1919. As there was no road between Sinop and Samsun at that time, he continued his journey by sea. (McDonagh, Blue Guide: Turkey; Emphasis added).

Wilson comments on the importance of Amisus (Samsun) as a port of entry into Asia Minor.

Amisus was at the northern terminus of the main road that ran across Asia Minor to Tarsus. Peter’s messenger undoubtedly embarked at Amisus and initially made his way south along this route. (Biblical Turkey, 340)

The photo below was made from the highway east of Sinop. I hope that this, and the following photo, will help to illustrate the difficulty of travel in the region.

East of Sinop on the Black Sea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

From highway east of Sinop on the Black Sea. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

These photos and the information we have provided show that travel by sea would be much easier than travel by land, and that Sinop would not have been a good place to begin an inland journey. Leon made the following photo of the road and the mountains east of Sinop. This was one of the rare places where a vehicle could pull off road.

Mountains east of Sinop. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Mountains east of Sinop. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

A note about spelling. Some of the towns we are writing about have an ancient name and a different modern name. In the case of Sinop, it is spelled Sinope in older sources.

BiblePlaces giveaway of the PLBL Israel Collection

Between now and Friday at 10 am Pacific time you have an opportunity to enter a significant giveaway worth $149. Todd Bolen announces how you can win one of two copies of the 5 volumes of Israel photos in the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.

For full details click here. If you don’t win one of the sets you can always purchase it.

For my opinion about the full 18 volume Pictorial Library of Bible Lands see the review here.

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Peter’s Epistles and Pontus. I have been busy with other matters and unable to write more about the Black Sea coast. Hopefully tomorrow.